kyuugatsu no ni-juu-yon

Last week I went off on the subject of pencils and the use thereof in Japan. I don't feel like talking about anything in particular this week either, so let's go with the logical follow-up -- erasers. These things cause me about as much grief in the classroom as their graphite-filled companions, but for different reasons. Most of these have to do with Japanese standards of tidiness.

Students in Japan are trained from an early age to be extra tidy with all papers they have to turn in. We're talking obsessive-compulsive levels of tidiness here. If there is an extraneous mark anywhere on the paper, then it has to be rubbed vigorously out of existence. Even when a worksheet is pristine, I have seen students go at it with an eraser just in case. In some cases, they even leave friction damage on the paper, thus ruining the entire point of leaving it unmarked and perfect.

The sad part is, teachers often will take points off for papers that are not 100% perfectly neat. In some cases, this can go so far as to include showing your work on a math sheet. Students will write out the problem longhand, meticulously copy the answer into the space provided, then erase all the equations they jotted down to get the answer.

For that extra level of obsessive-compulsive neatness though, consider this. On a worksheet, frequently the student will be required to write the whole equation, and not just the answer. This sounds simple enough with elementary school arithmetic, but... An example: the reading question is, "Johnny has three apples, and Billy has four apples. How many apples are there altogether?" The correct answer is 3 + 4 = 7. Writing down 4 + 3 = 7 will be counted as wrong, because the order of numbers in the question must correspond exactly to how they are presented in the written question regardless of whether that order actually matters in the equation. If I'd seen this only once I would have passed it off as one incredibly anal-retentive math teacher, but I've heard similar stories from many Japanese parents.

Neatness, precision, absolute accuracy of form. While I can appreciate the spirit in which these virtues are promoted, it really is possible to take things too far.

Position Up / Down Title Publisher Platform
1 New Arrival! Pokémon Heart Gold / Soul Silver Nintendo
3 Holding at 3 Dragon Quest IX - Defender of the Stars Square Enix
25 Down from 20 Tales of Versus Bandai-Namco

Oh! Great Infernal God of Destruction!

You who hold our fate in your PSP of Darkness!

Give unto us, the villains of the land, the fruits of your wrath,

Lead us all into perdition, and deliver us from do-gooders.

Those folks at Acquire believe that there can never be too much of a bad, or rather evil, thing. They're out to prove it with Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! in 3D! (The "D" Stands for "Dungeon"), the next iteration of their quirky Dark Lord simulation series. No, they're not straying from the series sideview 2D format. They're just expanding our options.

First there's the Main Dungeon section, i.e. the meat of the game. With three areas, three levels of difficulty, and a total of thirty-three stages, there's something for everyone in the main portion of HIPD-3D. The second D is the Daily Dungeon, a set of mission-based challenges unrelated to the main storyline, but which are sure to keep players entertained. Last is the Mystery Dungeon, whose details remain to be quite mysterious.

Adding to the insanity, Acquire has a few more monsters available to would-be gods of destruction: the turtle-like Archelons, the deceptively beautiful Lotus, and a strange cloud creature all now haunt the depths.

So, heroes, what are you waiting for? Heh, heh, heh.

Source: Famitsu Weekly

So you're walking around the corner to the 7-11 one night, looking to score some cup noodle and a box of pocky, when all of a sudden some dude in a red jumpsuit falls out of the sky and crashes at your feet. With the last of his strength he passes this snazzy belt on to you.

Congratulations, you're a superhero, the great Makenonger, now what?

Seriously, you still live with your parents, your diet consists mostly of cup noodle and diet soda, and you get winded climbing the stairs. The world can't be this desperately in need of saving, right?

Well consider this: Nippon Ichi is making a super-hero RPG. With their record for zany storylines, the world could very well be that desperate.

Sorry, world. This is your new savior and main character for Zettai Hero Kaizou Keikaku (Absolute Hero Makeover). While it's by the same guys who developed the Disgaea series, this one doesn't look to be a tactical game at all. Instead, it's a sort of dungeon-crawler action RPG. The main character is highly customizable, with all major body sections changeable.

It's not like you're completely going it alone, though. You've got some guidance in the former Makenonger and your new, cutesy-pink sidekick Etrange. Still, you're the one who has to go up against the big-time kaijuu invading the earth, not them.

So the question is, can you survive long enough to even make a difference?

Heaven help us all...

Source: Dengeki Online

It's been a busy year for Gust. Just this March, they put out Atelier Annie, and then in June there was Atelier Rorona for the PS3. Now it turns out that there's yet another Atelier game in the works, due out this December.

The story as it goes: Lina thought she was having the best day of her life. She'd finally passed the alchemy licensing tests on her third try and was rushing home to tell her best friend Luon all about it. Unfortunately, not long afterwards there wasn't much of a home worth mentioning. A large section of the forest just went up in flames, and for lack of anyone better the fairy folk have decided to blame Lina and Luon for the damages. Like it or not, the two of them now find themselves in indentured servitude to the fairies, and have three years to help fix things. So, let's meet the cast!

The first two are Lina Alteria and Luon Volk. We already know what's going on with them, so let's move on. Next is Gerard, the local merchant prince and financial wiz-kid. Finally there's Fara, a student from a neighboring land who's looking to broaden her knowledge a bit.

Looking over the screenshots available, it's hard to tell what changes might have been made to this entry in the series. It certainly looks like the towns are a bit more explorable than in previous DS Atelier games, and at a guess I'd say that your party members get more special skills this time around as well. Beyond that, I'm not sure. Though I do like Lina's donkey cart.

Source: Famitsu Online

Our last game of the day is a new one. WiZmans World (yes, with a Z) has just been announced for the DS "sometime." Jaleco hasn't seen fit to give us anything more substantial in terms of a release date. What they have deigned to give us is a story.

The town of Wizarest used to be a prosperous little burgh lying on the trade routes. That is, until the world started to come to an end. Not with a bang, nor with a whimper, but with slow, inexorable destructive force. The town itself has yet to succumb, but it lost all contact with the outside world years ago. The townsfolk have been left to ponder the inevitable.

One young man's reaction is, "Screw that!" He's determined to find a way out and has studied up as best he can on the magic of the land. With three little shapeshifting homunculi in tow, he's going to challenge the borders of reality and hopefully find not only a path to the world outside, but perhaps even a way of halting the progress of destruction.

Source: Dengeki Online
Same Old Song and Dance


I found the section on pencils interesting and amusing. Hearing about the various theatre pieces you mentioned makes me wonder if there are any other video game and/or anime inspired productions that I should know about. I know about Sera Myu (a series of Sailor Moon musicals) but apart from that I have no idea. Since I love singing, I think it would be fun if there were more musicals (and non-musical plays too). Have you heard of any others?

Have fun with SaGa 2,



While I know there must be more out there (this is Japan, after all), I haven't had much luck tracking them down. So far, I have a musical rendition of The Prince of Tennis, with actors from the live film version (who are surprisingly good singers). A fast search through Youtube gets me a musical production of Osamu Tezuka's Hi no Tori (The Bird of Fire), the Sailor Moon series you mentioned, and some old footage of the Takarazuka classic Rose of Versailles, which was based on a popular novel, was later adapted into a manga and anime, and became the foundation of the shojo style.

And, of course, I shall continue having fun with SaGa 2.

Honeymoon Conversation, take 2

Konnichiwa Gaijin-san,

Thanks for answering my 'tegami' some weeks ago :) Had been pretty enlightened in regards to most of the queries, especially on the Japan Rail Pass section. Looking at your painstaking calculation, the obvious option is to get one.

As my wedding is nearing and my honeymoon to Japan follows right after that, more questions abound!

1. Food. Yes it won't be much of a honeymoon without any memorable feasting going on. I recently heard of Gonpachi, and upon hearing it's one of the places that inspired a set in 'Kill Bill', decided it'd be worth a visit. However, if you only have one day each for Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka - which restaurant/eating place would you definitely go to and why?


Wish I could help you on this one, but my knowledge of fine dining in the big metro areas is roughly zilch. The times I've been up there, I was eating on a budget, so I ended up going to small mom-and-pop restaurants, ramen-ya, and yatai. All of which I would recommend, because they all have their own strange little atmospheres going on.

2. The Saga 2 Premium Box Soundtrack looks really amazing! The US$200 tag puts me off quite a bit but I guess it's to be expected considering it contains 15+ CDs. My question though: Where is the best place to browse an impressive collection of game music CDs (used or new ones) in any of those 3 cities? I recently spent almost US$100 on a used Hyrule Symphony and I could almost hear my fiance screaming at me in my dreams... Maybe used music CDs would be cheaper over there?


I had a similar question asked of me a few months back, and a reader named MegaloSaro from the forums recommended Tower Records in Shibuya, 6th floor. Apparently they have a copious selection of game OSTs available over there.

3. Ever heard of Shin sekai (the New World) in Osaka? Now based on the description, it's a place I'm really interested to drop by. However, it's also notorious as the unsafest part of Osaka. You think it's worth dropping by to take a look? Would they allow a doe-eyed, wary-looking couple to walk by peacefully?


I've heard it described as the closest thing Japan has to a "bad neighborhood." But then again, the Japanese tend to overreact a bit. The crime rate over here is pitifully low compared to many parts of America, and yet the locals complain ever louder about "crime waves." The biggest problem I know of with the Shin Sekai area is the fact that it's apparently a mecca of sorts for the nation's homeless people. It's also a major area for prostitution. Be careful, watch yourselves, and you should be okay. And if you don't like the look of an area, bail. Hail a cab or something.

Thanks for the recommendations on some onsen spots. We decided to go somewhere in Izu peninsula for one night, well Kawazu to be exact. The photos showed some beautiful shots of the onsen and the surroundings that face the Pacific Ocean. Now it'd be interesting if they made more RPGs that feature onsen (and possibly include some in-game body stat bonuses. In real life, hot spring water does have beneficial properties). Last few I remembered vaguely were Ranma RPG and Tales of Vesperia.

Anyway, enjoy your Saga 2. I might consider getting the bundle after all heh. We'll see. Keep posting the column, Gaijin san. Itsumo omoshiroi desukara!



A few more random games that have onsen for healing: Taishou Mononoke Ibunroku and Samurai Evolution. And of course there's the great "hot spring" debacle in Persona 3...

Be sure to let me know how it turns out!

Man, I wish I could have managed to fit TGS into my schedule. The big problem is, I have Sports Day this Sunday. Only slightly less problematic would have been convincing my boss to let me have Thursday and Friday (the only two days I actually work this week, because of the Silver Week holiday). Alas, it just was not meant to be. Again. Hopefully Chris is enjoying himself over there.

And that's the news from Hi-no-Kuni,

Your man in Japan,

Gaijin Monogatari

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